Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere important?
Maybe it’s the day of your big presentation or a meeting with some key clients. You're all dressed up, excited and raring to go. You’ve planned your journey down to the minute of arrival, jumped in the car and you’re off. Then suddenly, you come across an obstacle:
Half way along the road your car grinds to a halt. You’ve met your first unexpected and untimely roadblock.
In a panic you quickly try to divert down a different route but now find yourself clogged in the middle of an unbearably long traffic jam.
This is how life can feel for most start-up entrepreneurs. Too often I meet with aspiring entrepreneurs who have had an epiphany about a brilliant new business idea that has never been done before and everyone will buy into it and they will become an overnight success.
How to become a successful entrepreneur
Here’s the truth:
It takes several years to become an overnight success. Nothing goes as perfect as the plan is. So what does this mean for you in the long run?
The bad news is, there will always be these annoying things called barriers set out to disrupt your journey. Barriers can manifest themselves in the form of market shifts, changes in government legislation, unfortunate mishaps. Some barriers occur just through having a lazy co-worker, or even worse: believing the negative comments someone made about your idea. But however they come, we all know they are not welcome to stay. After all, who likes unforeseen circumstances that stifle success?
No great entrepreneur has ever played the victim. So when barriers come our way, what should be the reaction of a go-getting, confident innovative, entrepreneur?
Here’s the good news:
Things don’t happen to great entrepreneurs, but rather they make things happen.
I’m a firm believer that true entrepreneurs don’t sit passively waiting for their ship to come in, but rather they swim out to go get it. When opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door and knock on it yourself.
My story and some advice for you
I started my first business just after I turned 17. It was a football coaching academy in north London. We began from very humble beginnings, just two coaches with second-hand footballs teaching 20 children in my local park. 3 years down the line we have now won 3 national businesses awards, and work with over 85 children every week in school and communities across the whole of London.
By the time I was in 2nd year of university I had already bought my 2nd car and was making enough money to pay off all my tuition fees. At age 21, I’m now an inspirational speaker and published author of How To Be a Student Entrepreneur.
When people hear my story they often come away with the misconception that I faced no barriers and everything I touch quickly turns to gold. Without going into too much detail I can categorically say that this is far from the truth:
I have been through more hurdles than an Olympic runner. Before I even became a business owner I had people doubting whether I could even make it as an employee. These people were all too quick to point out my barriers for me.
Things such as, your too young, you’re too inexperienced, you’re too poor to finance this …blaa blaa blaa! I had people point out barriers as to why I could never make it up the corporate ladder. This was my response:
“Fine, I will just build my own ladder and climb up it myself”.
Three key principles of overcoming barriers
So, you’re probably wondering:
What is it that allowed me to break through barriers? Throughout the course of my journey, many others have asked me the same question (usually those who don’t just assume I’m crazy, blind or get thrills out of running into brick walls). Why did I have so much confidence in overcoming the same barriers that caused many others business to grind to a halt?
It’s not that I’m blind to the existence of obvious roadblocks. I’m fully aware of what lies in front of me, but I’m even more conscious of what lies within me.
There were 3 principles that I have always hung onto. These were the golden keys to creating a way through any barrier.
They are skills, network and inspiration.
Skills (and investing in opportunities)
The skills we acquire are what create the opportunities we receive. The more skilled you are the more road blocks you can break through.
Never begrudge money or time you spend on learning. This is your investment in your future opportunities.
You are investing to build up your human capital in order to become a person of high value. Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s example: as the world’s most expensive footballer, he can do things with a football that very few other people on the planet can do. This is why he is so highly valued.
In this competitive day and age, the traditional academic qualifications are not enough to get you past common barriers. To stand out from the rest you must equip yourself with various other skills:
- Communication skills
- leadership skills
- linguistic skills
- people and project management skills
These skills all go a long way in creating a way around barriers.
So, read the books, attend the seminars watch and study the videos. You will reap the rewards, and get a head start in mastering the next principle:
The power of networking
They say you need three things to start up a business:
These are relationships, resources and finance. However, I often find once I have the right relationships I automatically get the other two.
Never underestimate the power of networking:
I have achieved certain levels of success simply because someone offered me a hand. Likewise, I am always keen to help others. Even if I personally can’t help another entrepreneur out, I’m sure I know someone in my network that can. It’s just the way smart businesses operate. We all know it’s difficult to climb over barriers but it all becomes a lot easier when you can leverage off each other.
The importance of finding inspiration
Being inspired by something or someone is usually the trigger to action.
For that reason it’s important to constantly remain inspired so that you will constantly be in action. Don’t abandon ship when barriers to success appear and times get hard in business:
This is when you will need to dig deep within yourself and find strength in a greater purpose. When you reach a barrier monetary gain often proves a useless motivator, because there may not even be any cash flow in the business. When you reach this point, what is it that will keep you going?
Your inspiration could be a deep passion or love for your work, or a strong desire to help others through your work. Whatever you find your deepest inspiration in, hold onto it above all other motivators. When you reach a road block it will be your trigger to help you shoot through and continue your journey towards success.
Skills, network and inspiration: these are the three vital principles that will help you become a successful entrepreneur, and find a solution whenever business gets tough.
Now, let’s go back to our story of being stuck in a traffic jam on the way to an important meeting, and let me share a similar experience I had:
I was trapped for over 5 hours in gridlocked traffic, but fortunately for me, I wasn’t heading anywhere important. The same couldn’t be said for all the other hundreds of drivers honking and screaming out the window of their cars. I observed them all facing the same roadblock and doing what the typical person would do and complain.
Then I spotted one gentleman who decided to not sit and complain:
Instead, he chose to get up and overcome his barrier. This is the trait of an exceptional entrepreneur.
Realising that he was in danger of missing his big appointment, the young man hopped out of his BMW convertible and abandoned the car in the middle of the road. He then grabbed his suitcase and continued the rest of his journey on foot.
As I watched him run past the other congested cars and the big roadblock up ahead, it dawned on me that maybe barriers aren’t necessarily a bad thing:
Barriers are there to separate those who would like something but sit and complain from those who are willing to abandon everything, get up and run towards their goal.
So, the most important thing to remember is this:
Barriers help us to distinguish those who actively try to achieve success from those who desperately want and believe they deserve success.
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